Condemned for healing and converting the imprisoned, Saint Sebastian was sentenced to execution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the late 3rd century. Tied to a pillar, Saint Sebastian is depicted gazing serenely toward the viewer, as arrows pierce his neck and side. This representation of tranquility amidst brutality was immortalized centuries later in this gilded bronze plaquette, one of many created by Veronan goldsmith and guild master Galeazzo Mondella, also known as Moderno. These plaquettes, which were used for decoration and embellishment, often portray scenes of exemplary Christian martyrs and other holy figures whose image served as models of ideal devotion to the faith. As iconography of Saint Sebastian spread across Europe and beyond, depictions of his martyrdom were later be appreciated for their homoerotic undertones. His soft gaze and boyish features epitomized male beauty and represented a shift away from masculine features.
Written by Joshua Po, ’23
From the 2023 exhibition Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, curated by students of ARTH 20.04, "Faith and Empire: Art in the Early Modern World" taught by Elizabeth Rice Mattison, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Academic Programming
Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, Class of 1967 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, August 12-December 23, 2023.
Giovanni and Gabriella Barilla, Geneva, Switzerland; Sotheby's, "The Collection of Giovanni and Gabriella Barilla: Important Porcelain, Venetian Fine and Decorative Arts from their Residence in Geneva,"London, 14 March 2012, lot 306; sold to Wallace D. Bradway, New Haven, Connecticut, 2012; given to the present collection, 2022.
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